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Liberty Men Lead, Women 2nd after First Day

February 26, 2009  Clemson, S.C.  RSS
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Marie Williams' personal-best performance in the hurdles propelled the senior to her second Big South pentathlon championship, Thursday in Clemson, S.C.

Marie Williams' personal-best performance in the hurdles propelled the senior to her second Big South pentathlon championship, Thursday in Clemson, S.C.

The Liberty men's track & field team leads, while the Lady Flames rank a close second, after Thursday's opening-day action at the 2009 New Balance Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, in Clemson, S.C.

The Liberty men's squad won a trio of field event titles on the day, helping the Flames tally 83 points through the meet's first six events. Liberty, seeking an unprecedented 12th consecutive Big South indoor team title, owns a 37-point edge over the current second-place squad, High Point.

Meanwhile, the Lady Flames are locked in a battle with three-time defending conference champion Coastal Carolina. Like the men's squad, Liberty's women captured three event championships on Thursday, as part of a 50.5-point day. The Chanticleers own a slim, 4.16-point edge through the first six events.

Men's Meet Recap
The evening's final event to conclude, the men's high jump, was a big one for the Flames. Liberty swept the event's three All-Big South honors and racked up 27 total points. Leading the way was senior Matt Parker (Rome, N.Y.), who defended his 2008 high jump title with a 6-9.5 clearance. Anthony Bryant (R-Fr., Charlottesville, Va.) and Clarence Powell (So., Marianna, Fla.) finished second and third, respectively, as both topped out at 6-7.5.

Parker was one of two Liberty athletes to defend his 2008 championship on Thursday. Sophomore Kolby Shepherd (Dublin, Ga.) made first-attempt clearances at each of his first three heights to capture the third Big South pole vault crown of his career, including the indoor and outdoor meets. His winning height was 15-5.75. Shepherd becomes Liberty's first back-to-back Big South pole vault titlist since Adam Williams in 2001-02.

For the third consecutive season, a different Liberty athlete won the men's shot put championship. Following in the footsteps of Jon Hart and current assistant coach Clendon Henderson, senior Andrew Bartels (Grantham, Pa.) unleashed a personal-best 52-10.25 heave on his second attempt. The effort held up for Bartels' first career Big South championship.

Liberty, which has won all three heptathlon competitions ever contested at the Big South Indoor Track & Field Championships, is off to a strong start once again. Clarence Murray (R-Sr., Birdsboro, Pa.) set season bests in the long jump (20-10.75) and shot put (40-2.25), building a 154-point lead atop the heptathlon standings. The 2006 and 2007 Big South champion racked up 2,723 tallies on Thursday. Sitting behind him in second place is teammate Geren Woodbridge (R-So., Wilkes-Barre, Pa.), with 2,569 points.

The Flames' only points in a running event came in a hotly contested distance medley relay. The top three teams broke the meet record, which had stood since 1998. Liberty took second place in the No. 2 time in program history, 10:04.66. Sam Chelanga (R-So., Nairobi, Kenya) ran a 4:05 for his 1,600-meter anchor leg, helping the Flames pass High Point and qualify for the IC4A Championships. Chelanga was joined on the relay by a trio of freshmen: Will Reeves (Rustburg, Va.), James Hatch (Derry, N.H.) and Jordan Bright (Damascus, Ore.).

The Flames' final All-Big South performer on day one was Bryant, who long jumped a personal-best 22-11.75, adding a third place to his high jump runner-up finish.

A number of prelims were contested in the men's running events, with Flames seniors Parker and Phil Leineweber (New Freedom, Pa.) providing highlights. Parker's 8.25 clocking was the fastest time in either of the men's 60-meter hurdles heats. Meanwhile, Leineweber made the finals in both the 200 and 400-meter dashes. His 400-meter time of 49.12 was a season best and IC4A qualifier.

Women's Meet Recap
Marie Williams (R-Sr., Tampa, Fla.) got the Lady Flames' day started off with a bang, leading from start to finish in the pentathlon. Williams' score of 3,369 outdistanced runner-up Victoria Argus of Gardner-Webb by 189 points, to become the conference's first two-time Big South pentathlon titlist. The Sunshine State native, who also earned the 2007 Big South pentathlon championship, set a personal best in the 60-meter hurdles (8.92) and high jumped 5-3.75 to highlight her performance.

After completing the five pentathlon disciplines, Williams' day was not complete. She also qualified for the 60-meter hurdles final, tied for fifth in the high jump (5-1) and long jump, giving the senior a total of eight events on Thursday.

Freshman Christina Mitchell (Monroe, Va.) helped Liberty maintain its stranglehold on the women's high jump title. The Lady Flames have now finished first in the event seven straight times, after Mitchell sailed over a personal-best 5-5. Now tied for No. 5 on Liberty's all-time indoor high jump performance list, Mitchell is the second consecutive Lady Flame freshman to win this event. Mia Aghaji (So., Chester, Va.) leaped to the 2008 high jump title.

The Lady Flames' third victory came on the track, when senior Ashley Osborne (Bristol, Va.) blasted away from the field in the final 1,000 meters of the women's 3,000-meter final. Osborne's first career Big South individual event title came by a three-second gap, in a season-best 10:03.54 effort. Osborne, the first Liberty runner to ever win the 3K championship, halted a streak of seven consecutive Coastal Carolina titles in the event.

Osborne's classmate, Andrea Beckles (Lynchburg, Va.) set Liberty's only school record of the day in a blazing set of 60-meter dash prelims. The top four qualifiers, including Beckles, ran faster than the event's winning time from 2008. Beckles lowered her own program standard to 7.56 seconds, making her one of two Lady Flames to reach the final. Freshman Alyssa Pegues (Warner Robins, Ga.) will join Beckles in Friday's final, after her 7.73 time made her the No. 4 all-time performer in Liberty history.

The Lady Flames also found considerable success in the 800-meter run prelims, sending three athletes—Jaime Watson (Sr., Ravenna, Mich.), Katie Albright (So., Wake Forest, N.C.) and Ashley Teer (Sr., Abbotsford, British Columbia)—through to the finals. Watson, the defending 800-meter conference champion, led all qualifiers with a 2:16.56 clocking.

Teer teamed up with Rod'Esther Castor (So., Hamilton, N.J.), Brittany Heath (Jr., Freeport, Grand Bahamas) and Hannah Hunt (Fr., Sewickley, Pa.) to earn six team points for a third-place finish in the distance medley relay. The Lady Flames' official time was 12:40.35.

The meet's second and final day will commence Friday at 9:30 a.m., when the heptathlon resumes with the 60-meter hurdles. Field events will get underway 30 minutes later, with the women's weight throw, and running events will start at the same time, when the gun goes off for the women's mile run.

Women's Pentathlon Final Scores (14 Total Entrants)
1) Marie Williams, Liberty – 3,369

2) Victoria Argus, Gardner-Webb, 3,180
3) Kayla Morgan, Gardner-Webb, 3,104
4) Krystle Matthews, Liberty – 3,100
5) Channel Futrell, Charleston Southern – 3,025
6) Kandisa Allicock, Coastal Carolina – 2,994
7) Jen Healey, Liberty – 2,986
8) Ashley Potts, Coastal Carolina – 2,913
11) Melanie Sims, Liberty – 2,826

Men's Heptathlon Day One Scores (14 Total Entrants)
1) Clarence Murray, Liberty – 2,723
2) Geren Woodbridge, Liberty – 2,569
3) Michael Munson, VMI – 2,465
4) Benjamin Bowles, Charleston Southern – 2,453
5) Evan Brusich, Gardner-Webb – 2,398
6) Drew Edwards, Liberty – 2,313
7) Jeremy Snyder, Liberty – 2,256
8) Richard Garcia, VMI – 2,143

Women's Team Scores (Through Six Events)
1) Coastal Carolina – 54.66
2) Liberty – 50.5
3) Charleston Southern – 26.33
4) Gardner-Webb – 26.16
5) High Point – 26
6) Winthrop – 22.16
7) Radford – 14.16
8) VMI – 9
9) UNC Asheville – 5

Men's Team Scores (Through Six Events)
1) Liberty – 83
2) High Point – 46
3) Gardner-Webb – 32
4) VMI – 29
5) Radford – 27
6) Winthrop – 13
7) Charleston Southern – 2